Sunday, January 1, 2012

Military Propaganda and New Year's Expectations

All soft-caps and no steel-helmets
 in this British Recruitment Poster, 1915.
Credit: Library and Archives Canada,
Acc. No. 1983-28-1325
New Year's is a time for considering the past and projecting high hopes for the coming year.  In times of war, military powers have hoped to channel these sentiments of personal improvement to rally citizens to their militant duties.  A British Great War poster features an army of soldiers marching to victory in 1915.  Historical hindsight offers a grim reality-check to these optimistic hopes for the glowing rays of victory in the first year of the Great War.

With the coming of 1942, Canada's Department of Munitions and Supply opted for a more emotional appeal in hopes to channel New Year's resolutions.  Canada's broad mobilization for war in the previous year and a half is evident, as a limited liability strategy turned into a full-scale war effort.  The text-heavy poster is clearly aimed at increasing efforts on the home front to back the attack, yet includes a phrase imploring those best fit for military service to serve in the armed forces.

"I will resolve that if I am fitted to serve my country in the armed forces. I will take my place proudly beside my comrades."

Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. R1300-262
German propagandists were not immune to tapping the celebratory expectations of the bombastic New Year's eve party.  Directed at American soldiers in Italy, one leaflet depicts decadent New York capitalists partying in luxury.  Targeting soldiers in the frigid conditions of January 1945, the leaflet attempts to raise memories of better times and evoke suspicions of war profiteering, while lowering morale on the front.  The broad expectations of New Year's parties and resolutions, it seems, have proven to be common themes in attempts to influence the public's militant resolve.

Hoping to drive a wedge between the homefront and the battlefield, the German pamphlet depicted a raucous orgy of heartless capitalism "THEY know what you are fighting for when they pocket their huge profits and big paychecks." Tapping in to the seasonal urge to ponder the future, the ultimate  anxieties of the soldier were exploited.

"What has the new year in store for you?
Will you die on the battlefield?
Will you be maimed or blinded?
Who knows?"    

New year's celebrations date back to the Romans.  Perhaps they too used military propagandaTheir large arena displays were one way they could use display to seek allegiance from the masses.  It seems, however, the expansion of print media made attempts to spread the a militant message easier. Glossy posters and the ability to bombard the enemy with paper messages spread material quickly throughout the target population.  The effectiveness of propaganda in any era is a contentious topic, but the concentrated resources forwarded to the efforts of those such as Joseph Goebbels, or on a smaller scale, John Grierson, of Canada's Department of Wartime Information, point to the Second World War as the high watermark of global propaganda.  Arguably, the introduction of the film reel changed the nature of propaganda, as the experiential effect of movies and newsreels drew participants to the medium's message.

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